08/21/2008 12:00AM

Talented bunch in Turf Stakes


No, Gardenia Day didn't completely sap the Ellis Park meet of its best horses. A renewal befitting its $100,000 purse is on tap Saturday for the Ellis Park Turf Stakes, with several stakes-proven fillies and mares helping to give the 1 1/16-mile turf race a considerable amount of depth.

Kiss With a Twist, despite drawing the outside 10 post, looks like a logical lukewarm favorite. Not only does this daughter of 1999 Travers Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid enter off second- and third-place finishes in back-to-back Grade 3 handicaps, but she also will be ridden by Victor Lebron, whose dominance at the Ellis meet was underscored last Saturday when he swept all three Gardenia Day stakes at the Henderson, Ky., track.

Kiss With a Twist, owned by Hurstland Farm and based at Calumet Farm by Jose Fernandez, has had a very productive 2008 so far. After running third in a tough turf allowance at Keeneland in April, she won a Churchill Downs allowance in May, then ran third in the Grade 3 Mint Julep at Churchill and second in the Grade 3 Modesty at Arlington Park.

There is no shortage of viable challengers, with Tequilas Dayjur, Swingit, Sirmione, and the uncoupled Bill Mott entry of Ballado's Thunder and Platinee all sure to take solid support.

Of those, Tequilas Dayjur holds the most intrigue. Three weeks ago, the filly tried and failed against the likes of Indian Blessing in the Grade 1 Test Stakes, but the combination of a stretchout and surface switch should make her a dangerous pace prospect once she breaks from the inside post under Tracy Hebert.

Swingit, winner of the 2007 Edgewood Stakes, comes off a career-best Beyer Speed Figure, 92, recorded during a June 22 allowance victory at Churchill.

Sirmione, trained by Steve Penrod, also comes off a big effort, having captured the HBPA Handicap at Ellis four weeks ago in her stakes debut.

Ballado's Thunder, beaten just a neck in the HBPA, and Platinee, a consistent Gulch mare with 14 in-money finishes from 19 career starts, also merit strong consideration.

The Ellis Turf goes as the 10th of 11 races on a Saturday card that starts at 12:40 p.m. Eastern.

Only one stakes remains at Ellis: the $50,000 Tri-State Handicap, to be run Aug. 30. The 39-day meet ends Sept. 1. Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., begins its 22-day fall meet on Sept. 3.